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Lecture 7

Lecture 7 - Due Process.docx

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HIST 3850
Patrick J Connor

HIST3850 Patrick Connor October 26, 2012 th Lecture #7: Due Process (The 14 Amendment) Powell v. Alabama  9 offenders popularly known as Scottsboro boys  Rooted in Great Depression, began in 1929  Massive unemployment  Experiences an unprecedented drought with destroyed agriculture  Only way to survive was to say on move and keep looking for food/employment wherever they went  Scottsboro boys were on the move and met up with one another  Met on a freight train which belonged to Southern Railroad  Made a schedule run between two ends of Tennessee, March 19, 1931  “Riding the rails” – hop onto a freight train without a ticket  Illegal but very common during Depression  Very dangerous, could fall or get caught by police and get beaten up  Four young friends on this train and on another part of train were 5 more African American boys from Georgia  5 men hadn’t known each other, met on that day  Second group didn’t know members of other group before  Number of white boys on train, trouble began when one was walking along top of tanker car and stepped on hand of one of black boys  Rocks were thrown and all white boys were either thrown off or had jumped off  Wanted to press charges  Even though they had been riding train illegally, this was South  Part of route, train went through Alabama  Hit stop near Scottsboro, Alabama  At stop, telephoned ahead and every African American was arrested on train  9 boys charged with assault and attempted murder  Two white girls: Victoria Price and Ruby Bates (17-18)  They were unemployed and had been riding the rails in search of work  Until about 20 minutes later, accusation  One white woman Bates, volunteered or responded to a sheriff’s deputy question that they had both been raped by this gang of blacks  Boys only heard about this later when they were called to line up  Bates positively identified six of the boys  Price wasn’t able to identify any but figured the remaining 3 must have raped her  Newspaper ran story in front page and used their imagination since they did not have any legitimate details  Huge mob had gathered at Scottsboro jail and sheriff had to call national guard to maintain order  By March 30, the grand jury had indicted all 9 boys for rape and this was a capital crime so penalty was death  Another element of Alabama law, if the death penalty might result, defendant had to have a lawyer  They were asked to get one and boys told judge they didn’t have one  No one stepped up in court to offer to represent them  Judge appointed every single member of Scottsboro bar an attorney of record  Eventually 3 proper lawyers were asked to take case  During initial trial they didn’t have much lawyers, judge was casual about appointing this bar randomly  Exaggerated fear of black sexuality didn’t exist until abolition of slavery  Used in rape cases almost exclusively in American south  All cultural stereotypes, biggest one was separation of races  Formal segregation and blacks and whites were formally kept apart  In reality, on lower economic ladder, more interaction between black and whites, they dated, kids played together, mated, etc.  Bates and Price were white and pretty far down on social scale  Both had widowed mothers that were their sole support  In 1932, they were making about $1.20 a day  Both lived in small, unpainted shacks  Bates family only white family on block (black neighborhood)  Called white trash  Crossed colour barrier  Suddenly seen as rape victims who were virtuous and acceptable  In retrospect, we know there was no rape and the two women were casual prostitute  Worked in the mills and often slept with black men  Easy choice for them because wouldn’t taint reputation  Easy to accept story, allowed authorities to reassure themselves about stereotypes they entertained without having to look too deeply at reality  Colour barrier was more fiction than reality  Boys were tried in four separate trials  Took just 4 days to indict them  Boys all teenagers between 14 and 21  14 was tried as a minor separately  4 separate days, Price and Bates told their story in front of audience  Women and children under 21 had been excluded because material of case was so shocking  Girls cleaned up nice and told an alluring and shocking story  Boys had guns, held knives to their throats and took turns  The only real evidence against boys was girls testimony  Even to the most sympathetic, the testimony was rambling and incoherent, often contradicting, often inconsistencies  Price told a pretty perfect story with a lot of details and pointed 6 out when after the other  Bates was the quiet one, so vague and confused it was pretty much useless but spectators thought it was a result of what she had gone through  All 9 denied they did this, some accused others but all maintained their own innocence  Jurors were tired and in end all 9 were found guilty with exception of young man who was legally a juvenile  All sentenced to death except for juvenile  Something happed at electric chair  Word of their case reached international defense league (IDL)  Case got publicity and IDL heard about it  IDL organization associated with communist party in US  This group stepped in and agreed they would represent the boys, raise money for defense and their appeal  Managed to get a stay of execution (a delay)  Took case to Supreme Court of Alabama  Communist party saw this case as something that would be a great recruiting tool amongst black in the South  Would highlight economic and racial issues  Took on case and called case the “murderous fr…”  NAACP pretty slow moving democracy  Came to realization that they were probably innocent  To gain control of case, they offered to hire a nationally renowned lawyer  For better or worse it was too late  They were all minors and parents were approached  Boys and families approved appeal and case brought to ASC  Appeal not satisfying, rejected by a vote of 5 to 1  Rejected a number of defensive arguments, made 5 major points: o Accused had not been properly indicted (rejected) o Tried 9 boys in groups, should have been split individually (rejected) o Had not received a fair trial for a number of reasons:  There was a mob outside who was so violent  Necessary for national guard to be called in  Invalidated the trial  Court responded that national guard assured it was fair trial  Rather than being intimidating factor, insured fair trial o Bad publicity had made a fair trial impossible (rejected-what newspapers do) and change in venue should have been made o New evidence had come to light that Bates occasional prostitute so sex had been consensual (rejected because pointed out that defense stance was that there had never been any sex in the first place) o Case had been heard far too fast, defense did not have proper time to consult lawyers or devise a proper defense in the 4 days  Pointed out constitution guaranteed right to a speedy trial  This is so you don’t sit in jail for years before get trial  Defense chose to focus on idea of due process  Specifically, Scottsboro boys lack of effective and proper counsel was a key flaw that should have been validated in trial  Argued since they were non residents of the State, no attempt had been made to see if they had family members who could potentially look in to getting them lawyers  Were not given any opportunities  Also each individual should have right of their own choosing  At arraignment, court appointed all members of bar as their council  In the end, 2 outside lawyers were hired to assist  No lawyer or opportunity to consult with one  Without a lawyer, there was no real way to challenge prosecutions evidence  Federal supreme court agreed that having a lawyer to defend you is an ancient and important right  Even innocent people run the danger of conviction because they do not know how to establish innocence  If this be true of intelligent men how much more true is it of the ignorant with
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